Well, we’ve made through Rosh Hashanah! It’s officially the year 5778 and I want to wish all of our readers a Shana Tova U’metikah – and here’s to this year being full of health, happiness, love, laughter and LOTS of good food! And that got me thinking. As we are now in the 10 days of repentance, it’s no surprise that I started thinking of what else I can do to do things with a little more intention, a little more positive spirit (and those of you who know me, I’m a pretty positive person already). Yes I can say things a little nicer to my husband (as I tell him to clean up), or be more mindful of how others may be perceiving my attitude. But I can’t discount the fact that one of the things I love to do most (yes, cooking), has helped many not just this past year, but in the last several years. No, I’m not perfect of course, but I felt I should share my experiences with making food for those who truly need it. I’m sure we all have a lot to repent for as we head into Yom Kippur, but I know there’s a lot I should be proud of and participating in this huge mitzvah definitely does the trick.
It’s a common thing throughout many communities (Jewish or not), that if someone has a baby, suffers from an illness, is in the hospital, or really just needs a helping hand, making a meal is one of the ways of fulfilling that important mitzvah. I particularly love doing this form of “chesed” or kindness, and not just because I love to cook, but it really truly makes me feel good about the food I’m putting so much love into. Of course, one can order takeout and have it delivered. But there’s something about a healthy, home cooked meal that sets it apart. And what’s most important for me is knowing my clientele.
Typically, when I make a meal for someone, it’s because of a new baby, so clearly a joyous time, but not without stress and sleep-deprivation and I’m sure not many new moms don’t really want to think about standing on their feet making dinner when dealing with a crying baby. Here I am, stepping in to help you, not because you need it, but because I CAN help.
There’s a great website called www.takethemameal.com where the coordinator puts in the recipients’ info – name, address, number of people in the family to feed and any food allergies or other specific requests (i.e. “deliver before 5pm”, “no mushrooms” or “gluten-free”). You get to schedule when you’d like to make a meal, by putting in your name, email, phone and what you’re making. And understandably, adhering to guidelines can be very tricky for some, but I am one of those people who have specific request (though I’m not allergic to gluten, I just feel better when I don’t eat it), but I get it. I cooked a meal for a family recently who is gluten-free and it was a perfect opportunity for me to make them a healthy, nutritious meal without wondering if any of my food will make them sick (oy, I hope it didn’t)!
If I’m cooking for a mother with a newborn, I automatically include my famous “coconut date balls”. A friend once told me that they were “the perfect bite to have when you’re up in the middle of the night breastfeeding”. That’s the best compliment (thanks Joy)! And exactly what I set out to do when I first made these (little disclaimer here – I usually put coffee in my date balls, but of course everyone has their own preference, so I always message the mom asking if a little coffee is okay, otherwise I just omit). I want to make food that’s healthy, because, let’s be honest – they’re most likely getting week’s worth of lasagna and pizza and maybe the occasional roasted chicken. And nothing wrong with that, but I like to make something a little different, something that’s a crowd pleaser – good for kids and adults and is easy to just pop in the oven to re-heat and serve at the table. So you’re probably wondering what I typically make, am I right? Well…I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.
Here are my typical meals:
- I usually make some sort of salad:
- Caesar salad – again, something the whole family can enjoy, and I use homemade mayo (organic, pasture-rased eggs), and no soy
- Carrot slaw – this is SUPER easy. All you do is dump a bag of shredded carrots in a bowl, add in some chopped pecans, shredded unsweetened coconut, sliced green onions, raisins and any kind of lemon vinaigrette – a little sweet and savory
- Crunchy coleslaw – also super easy. Bag of coleslaw mix, add in whatever veggies you have (and I mean whatever – onions, tomatoes (okay, fine, they’re a fruit), peppers, celery, cucumbers, zucchini…anything), top with some Terra Stix, and add whatever vinaigrette or creamy dressing you have on hand
- Main dish (always protein involved):
- This used to be a big hit, but I still make it sometimes, it’s my “Mexican Tortilla Lasagna”. Also, super easy. I make some refried beans (I just buy the GIANT can of pinto beans, add in some garlic, cumin but limit the salt, because even though I rinse the beans, they’re still pretty salty). Start with a big foil pan and layer tortillas (if the family is gluten-free, I use corn, not flour), add a layer of beans, sliced tomatoes (and any other veggies you want to sneak them in), Mexican shredded cheese blend (or any shredded cheese you happen to have on hand), do another 2 layers, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Top with shredded lettuce and if you want, add a side of sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and guacamole, if you’re feeling SUPER generous.
- This one may surprise you…but here me out. Lately, I’ve been making “shredded BBQ chicken-topped roasted sweet potatoes”. Honestly, just because I don’t eat meat, doesn’t mean that I can’t make meat or chicken for someone else. And what’s nice on the “takethemameal” website is that you can see what everyone else is making (TBD seems to be a favorite, ha). So, all I do is pop some sweet potatoes in the oven at 400 for about 40 minutes, and put 2-3 chicken breasts in a slow cooker with some BBQ rub (preferably Rabbi-Q’s rub and sauce, but I also like Trader Joe’s coffee BBQ rub), cook on low for 7-8 hours, or high for 4-6 and shred. That’s basically it. Once the potatoes are cooled, slice them open, add some spices if you prefer, top with the shredded BBQ chicken and sprinkle with sliced green onions. My beautiful friend Davida texted me the second my husband dropped off this meal (and included the carrot slaw and date balls) and told me how it looked like a restaurant-quality dish and even her husband, who went to culinary school said he would PAY for a meal like this! 🙂 Thank you darling for your support! And check out her incredible testimonial on my Facebook page here!
So there you have it, dear readers. As I said, I truly love doing this mitzvah but it’s also a nice and convenient way to introduce people to my cooking!
Until next time…
Rachel (a.k.a “Risky Veggie” signing out)
Want to know the recipe for my “famous” coffee coconut date balls? Check them out here on my other blog, riskyveggie!